Balcombe Ready to Step up to be a Marlin Leader.

Written by David Redden

Nelson Bay midfielder Sophie Balcombe admits she will have to step up as a team leader, with the departure of Lisa Steane, Pippa Smyth and Jess Phillips from the Marlins’ 2017 Grand Final line-up.

Speaking to us straight after a team strength and conditioning session, Balcombe stated that the Marlins are working with new player and qualified Exercise Physiologist Emmalee Harris on increasing their strength, toughness over the ball and also injury prevention in the lead-up to the expanded 16 team GE Black Diamond Womens Competition.

Balcombe stated “it’s obviously going to be a very different year without Lisa and Pippa around. We actually have a low retention rate from year to year, a lot of the girls end up moving away for things like work and University, we are very used to getting new players in. This season, we have players coming across from Touch, Soccer and Netball, all the girls are looking very fit from a big pre-season, so I very hopeful it is going to be a big year, hopefully we can make another Grand Final”.

Balcombe said that Marlins stalwarts Jemma Astley and Kaitlyn Douglass are playing once again, and that a lot will depend on the experienced Marlins players, particularly with so many first-year players at Dick Burwell Oval.

With Marlins gun utility Luke Price moving to Melbourne, Balcombe explained that the reliable Jess Phillps, Price’s partner, had moved with Price, putting more pressure onto Balcombe, Astley and Douglass. “We have to adapt to the situation we are in. We still have Don Spencer and Russell Fox coaching, at this stage I will have some kind of leadership role, learning a lot about being a go-to player and showing the newer players the right way to play”.

Balcombe advised that being invited to trial at the end of 2017 for a place in the AFLW competition with the GWS Giants “was really exciting for me. I don’t think I performed to the best of my ability that day, maybe my nerves got to me, so this year I am really, really hopeful of getting another shot at and working on my key problem areas from the first trial. Nerves and confidence were big factors for me at the trial”.

Balcombe was quite forthright in stating that “feedback from coaches other than my Marlins coaches was that my fitness was a big factor, and I felt personally that is something that I can really work on, I want to try harder and work on my overall fitness. I feel that I am lot fitter right now than I was at this time in the past two years, I think I have worked hard this pre-season.

I have also worked in the off-season on my core strength, as I felt that this also something I could work on, it’s something I find is a weakness”, an interesting statement given that Balcombe is regarded as one of the best tacklers in the GE Womens Competition.

“I have tried to incorporate more sprinting as well as endurance running. Originally, I was a sprinter in school, so endurance running was foreign to me until I played Australian Rules, so I have tried to last out games and not let my lack of endurance affect my playing standards”. Balcombe said that she will be working on sprint training throughout the 2018 season, “as I feel this is something I haven’t done enough of in the past”.

Balcombe said that being at the ground, watching her best mate Pippa Smyth play her first game “was surreal, it was a great experience. It shows what can happen when you work hard; it has empowered me to try much harder in my attempts to one day play in the AFLW”.

Balcombe, a Soccer player as a junior, has a very busy life, managing footy and currently training at TAFE to be a Youth Worker, whilst also working two jobs, at Sportspower in Salamander Bay and also at Curves Womens Gym in Salamander Bay.

Sophie Balcombe is a rising star of the GE Womens Competition. At just 20, she has her best footy years in front of her and we wish her and the Marlins all the best in 2018 and beyond.


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